For as long as I can remember myself tea drinking was an extraordinary ceremony in our family. When the whole family got together at home and especially during long winter nights my mother would suggest that we all drink tea. At first, when I was still very little, tea was heated in a kettle on a stove, but later my father bought a big brass samovar at the bazaar. It was heated on the porch and when the water boiled it was put in the middle of the table and everyone sat around it. The samovar radiated warmth and flashed rays from the low winter sun in all directions around the room and it all created a very special cozy atmosphere. Later, when the village was electrified, from another trip to raion center my father brought a new miraculous appliance – white plated samovar, but this time it was electric with a similar nickel-plated pot that was mounted on top of it. Since that time we no longer had to stoke copper samovar with coal. However, the new samovar had a short cord and was smaller in size, that is why it was always put on a small working table while the whole family continued to have its tea drinking ceremonies around the big table with the big samovar in the middle. On holidays we had many guests: all our friends and neighbors would gather together over tea discussing all the world’s news…
A BIT OF HISTORY
Instruments that worked according to such principle were known in antique times: burning hot stone was put in a container filled with water and it boiled in there. This was the first prototype of a samovar. In China they have a similar device, which also has a pipe and a wind box. Peter I brought the first samovar from Holland. According to another version, samovar came from China. And when the industrial boom began in Ural, numerous steel and brass factories were built which started producing various types of tea making appliances. First, there were made kettles with handles, later the factories began manufacturing boilers with tubes and distilling cubes. Later there came out “sbitennyks,” which were the predecessors of Russian samovars. First samovars were designed for field trips, therefore, they were small had detachable legs and unusual shapes. The most common ones were 3-8 liter samovars, but there were those that could heat up also 12-15 liters of water, the so-called army or gipsy samovars. Those were used mainly in winter time to keep warm.
There was a time when samovars were made only from red (it was called pure) and green copper, nickel silver. Later cheap alloys such as brass were used in samovar manufacturing. There were also samovars made of gold and silver. The shapes of samovars are very diverse. However, as the guides at the Crimean Ethnographic Museum say, it is impossible to tell about all kinds of samovars, in general, there are more than 200 various forms of samovars and more than 100 varieties of technical structure.
After the revolution in 1917 samovar industry almost ceased to exist and in 1918 all businesses were nationalized.
UNIQUE ART OBJECTS
Today when you look at this abundance of samovar collection it makes you realize that tea drinking is a whole philosophy of communication, a culture that includes the techniques of tea making and the psychology of human communication. Director of the Crimean Ethnographic Museum Yurii Laptev told that this collection was started at the time of the establishment of the museum. The basis for this collection was acquired by the museum from Crimea-born Yurii Naskrypniak. The museum continues to enrich the collection and now it has nearly 150 samovars in it. But the value of the exhibition is that it not only presents the history and techniques of tea making, but also reveals the philosophy of tea drinking as affinity of spirit, as a form of mutual understanding among people, as a language that does not need words.
There used to be a traditions that when a guest came to a house, first of all, he was invited to have some tea by the samovar and with the help of this “technology” people sought a way to each other, solved problems, had arguments, reconciled, and agreed on important matters. Now, something similar is done when people meet in a cafe over a cup of coffee but it is not the same. It is completely different, it is a different century, different traditions, and different people.
According to the museum workers, by present time nearly 97-98 percent of all samovars manufactured in late 19th and early 20th centuries due to the end of use age are gone. With each year there remain less and less genuine antique samovars and it is more difficult to find them. Soon such items will be found only in private collections and museums. Hurry up to see the unique collection!